Last Monday I watched the documentary Targeting Bin Laden that pieced together the story about the raid by American Navy SEALs which resulted in the assassination of Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan on 1 May this year.
It was a compelling piece of television that captured an extraordinary event in a very dramatic way by interviewing the key players in the event as well as using very realistic dramatisations of the actual raid.
What struck me as much as anything was the training that the 23 US Navy SEALs from Team Six (Naval Special Warfare Development Group) underwent prior to the raid. Nothing was left to chance. A replica of the house bin Laden was believed to be living in was built at the SEALs' training base so that the training could replicate, as much as humanly possible, the conditions that the SEALs would be facing on the ground.
The SEALs spent three intensive weeks practising for the raid, all the while not knowing who their target was going to be.
As the world knows, the raid was not only successful in assassinating bin Laden but more impressively, no US lives were lost. The SEALs completed their mission for the loss of *only* a $60 million Black Hawk helicopter.
Even when the Black Hawk crashed and it appeared that the mission's success was in serious doubt, the preparedness of mission control, and the SEALs, for any eventuality ensured that the adjustments were made and the mission continued without (visible) panic until the objective was achieved.
The four major lessons for me from observing the documentary were:
1) Replicate 'real' conditions as much as possible to make your practise effective
2) Practise, practise, practise
2) Prepare for any and all likely problems
3) Every person on the team has to be clear about their role
When your life is on the line, literally, it very clearly sharpens your focus on the importance of undertaking specific training that provides skills that you can replicate under enormous pressure, exactly when required.